Revolution Lullabye

August 24, 2012

A Symposium on Mentoring the Work of WPAs

“A Symposium on Mentoring the Work of WPAs.” WPA 35.1 (Fall/Winter 2011): 148-166.

The symposium, which features five short essays, is presented in response to “The CWPA Mentoring Project and Survey Report” published in the fall/winter 2010 issue of WPA. This particular symposium focuses on the mentoring needs and experiences of new or beginning WPAs at non-R1 institutions, demonstrating the range of challenges faced by WPAs at American colleges and universities.

Joyce Olewski Inman, “Reflections on Year One as an Almost-WPA” 149-152

Inman is completing her PhD and simultaneously serving as a WPA at that institution, against the advice of her mentors. She points out how difficult it is to seek mentorship in her role as an “illigitimate” WPA, citing the rhetoric of CWPA resolutions that call for WPAs with terminal, specialized-in-composition degrees.

“I am hopeful it will lead to additional reflection on how our field might become more accepting of the fact that ideal circumstances rarely exist and more conscious of the ways our own rhetoric may be dismissive, not supportive, of WPAs who find themselves in these less than ideal situations” (152).

Kathryn Johnson Gindlesparger, “Snapshot of a Tenure Decision” 152-155

Gindlesparger is a full-time WPA in an admininistrative, not tenure-track faculty, line, and she writes about the benefits and consequences of converting her line into a faculty one. She specificately cites the relative freedom and safety of an administrative position and describes how the culture of a writing program is changed when its control moves from a full-time administrator to multiple faculty members taking on small administrative roles. She calls on CWPA to expand their mentoring to WPAs who are not on the tenure track.

Darci L. Thoune, “The Pleasures and Perils of Being First” 156-159

Thoune explains her position as the first-ever WPA at her institution, describing the challenge of creating a centralized program in a formerly decentralized non-tenure-track instructor system. She explains how one of her primary objectives was to learn about the culture of the department and program, something she did in part by observing classes. She explains how many of her early initiatives at professional development failed, but through those and attending the WPA conference, she decided to implement different, more successful ways to create commonality in the program and manage the many decisions she had to make as a WPA.

Collie Fulford, “Hit the Ground Listening: An Ethnographic Approach to New WPA Learning” 159-162

Fulford discusses how she used ethnographic approaches (especially listening and observing) to learn about the culture of her new department, a HBCU.  She explains, though, that there came a time where she had to stop listening and start speaking, start participating as a member, not just an observer, in the department and college community.

Tim McCormack, “Boss of Me: When the Former Adjunct Runs the Writing Shop”  163-166

McCormack discusses the difficulty in transitioning from an outspoken advocate of adjunct rights to becoming the WPA who did not always have to the power to do the things he thought as an adjunct a WPA should do.  He discusses how he has learned the complex context a WPA works in, and although he has been able to come to terms with some of the decisions he has had to make, he’s uncomfortable with the dissonance with the progressive stance our scholarship often takes about contingent labor and the day-to-day administrative decisions about contingent faculty WPAs need to make.

“My WPA role at the college has evolved from my unquestioning righteousness in support of adjunct faculty to a more nuanced understanding that includes making decisions based on what is good for the writing program and our students.”

June 16, 2009

Special Issue: The Writing Major, Composition Studies

Special Issue: The Writing Major. Composition Studies 35:1 (Spring 2007).

I’m going to briefly note what’s in this issue and the highlights from each essay or article. Two articles I already have notes on.

Estrem, Heidi. “Growing Pains: The Writing Major in Composition and Rhetoric.” 11-14.

the writing major is that in-between space between 1st year comp and grad programs. This issue features essays and articles about these forming majors, articles that bridge local constraints, stories, and contexts with larger themes of the importance of place, timing, capitalizing on unexpected events, advocacy, and long effort. This group of growing writing majors asks the field to define itself – will it be under the umbrella of “writing studies?”

Carpini, Dominic Delli. “Re-writing the Humanities.” – already have notes

Clary-Lemon, Jennifer. “The Hot Arctic: Writing Majors as New Sites for New Hires.” 37-38

McClure, Randall. “Projecting the Shape of the Writing Major.” 39-40.

think about how instruction is delivered (online?); to and with whom (K-16?, interdisciplinary?) – the importance of the archictecture of a writing major when designing it.

Howard, Rebecca Moore. “Curricular Activism: The Writing Major as Counterdiscourse.” 41-52.

Writing majors give the field an opportunity to argue for a positive, informed view of postsecondary writing instruction. Howard reviews the websites of new writing majors and contends that websites, written for student, faculty, and public audiences, can be composition’s PR tool for changing the traditional, normative assumptions of writing instruction and allowing the institution to see composition and rhetoric as legitimate intellectual, disciplinary work.

Shamoon, Linda and Celest Martin. “What Part of the Elephant is This? Questioning Creative Non-Fiction in the Writing Major” 53-54

study of nonfiction can be placed in a historical trajectory in comp/rhet with expressivism. need to investigate and open up the theoretical and conceptual connections between creative nonfiction and comp/rhet

Schaffner, Spencer. “Grounding the Writing Major in the Socio-Graphemic Approach.” 55-56

the activity of writing is the central organizing theme to study: “students will become specialists in the study of written language, rhetoric, writing technologies, and image/text semiotics” (55).

Peeples et al. “Chronos and Kairos, Strategies and Tactics” notes already

Taylor, Beth. “On Brown University’s New Nonfiction Writing Program” 77-78

students aren’t required to take writing at Brown, but 26% do take a nonfiction writing course – academic essay, journalism, creative nonfiction

Newman, Glenn. “Concoting a Writing Major: A Recipe for Success.” 79-80.

undergrad who developed his own rhet/comp major at U of Utah and is preparing himself to go to grad school for rhet/comp

Scott, Tony. “The Cart, the Horse, and the Road They Are Driving Down: Thinking Ecologically about a New Writing Major.” 81-93.

faculty designing writing majors must think beyond their scholarly,  intellectual visions and consider the institutional constraints they are working with – hiring, budgets, staffing, space. Argues for a move to a “post-writing program era” (90) – without mandated syllabi, teacher management; encourage scholarly and pedagogical experimentation. The contradiction between the administrative functions of a writing program and the faculty functions of a major. Draws on Marx, circulation to look at the narratives and ideologies of power and control are wired into postsecondary writing instruction (85)

Peele, Thomas. “What Do We Mean When We Say ‘Writing?'” 95-96

where does creative nonfiction belong? disciplinary arguments that writing majors bring out

Lowe, Kelly. “Against the Writing Major.” 97-98.

writing majors, in order to thrive, must have proper staffing and consider faculty strenghts and weaknesses when constructing a program. Find the faculty to fit the major, not the other way around. Don’t attempt a major if you can’t run it well.

Taylor, Hill. “Black Spaces: Examining the Writing Major at an Urban HBCU.”

argues for consideration of context when developing a writing major – a Tier 1, mostly white research institution is going to have a much different writing major than an open-admissions, Washington DC, urban HBCU, which could focus on writing for government, policy, education, and African-American rhetorics and pedagogies. Calls for a haptic curriculum (one that is contingent, participatory), not an optic one (simplified, homogenous one) for writing majors (draws on Giles Deleuze’s A Thousand Plateaus.)

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